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CNN NEWSROOM

Investigators Building Timeline of Nerve Agent Attack; Trump to Replace National Security Advisor; Myanmar to Allow U.N. Access to Rakhine State; Thousands Flee Eastern Ghouta as War Turns; Puerto Ricans Still Dying in Hurricane Maria's Wake; Least Four Killed in Florida Bridge Collapse; Journeying with Greenpeace to Help the Antarctic. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 16, 2018 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is CNN NEWSROOM. Hello, I'm Natalie Allen. Ahead this hour, joint condemnation: European leaders and the U.S. unite over the poisoning of a former Russian spy while Moscow stands defiant.

Six months after Myanmar's brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims began, the country now says it will allow the U.N. in but is the government really committed to the repatriation process?

Plus the forgotten people: six months after Hurricane Maria, the lights are still off for tens of thousands and Puerto Rican lives are still being destroyed. We will take you there for an update.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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ALLEN: Our top story: relations between Russia and the West are rapidly deteriorating into Cold War territory. Britain's defense secretary describes them as "exceptionally chilly."

On Thursday, France, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. issued a joint statement, seeking answers from Moscow about the poisoning of a former Russian spy in England. Moscow has ignored the demand but the Kremlin is not ignoring Britain's expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the poison attack. Russia's foreign minister said there would be a response very soon.

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SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): I think that the story reflects, firstly, the despair of the current government of Great Britain, especially in a situation where they cannot fulfill the promises which they gave to their population with regarding exit from the European Union. But there will be an answer very soon, I guarantee it.

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ALLEN: In addition to that comment about chilly relations, the British defense secretary has this message for Russia.

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GAVIN WILLIAMSON, BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY: It is absolutely atrocious and outrageous what Russia did in Salisbury. We have responded to that. Frankly, Russia should go away. It should shut up.

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ALLEN: Britain's prime minister just toured Salisbury, where the poisoning happened. Theresa May said Western allies are united in condemnation of Russia's alleged attack.

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THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: What is important in the international arena -- and we have taken this into NATO, into the United Nations, taking it through into the European Union -- is that allies are standing alongside us and saying this is part of a pattern of activity that we have seen from Russia.

This happened in the U.K. but it could have happened anywhere.

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ALLEN: Still a lot of questions about how exactly this former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned but investigators have narrowed down the timeline. Our Melissa Bell is in Salisbury

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MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It took more than a week and a half, but on Thursday, Theresa May visited Salisbury for the first time since Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found slumped on a bench in the town center.

THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER OF UNITED KINGDOM: Obviously there's still work to do on the investigation by the police, but we're actually looking at the future now and what we can do to help in Salisbury.

BELL: For now though, all source free as hearing is what Theresa May has been telling the rest of the world since Monday that Russia is to blame.

MAY: We will not tolerate the threat to life of British people and others on British soil from the Russian government.

BELL: What remains less clear nearly two weeks on is precisely how and where the nerve agent was administer to the father and daughter. A number of locations in Salisbury, including the restaurant where they had lunch remain cordoned off, but only have to go on for now is the time running.

This is Sergei Skripal on the morning of March 4th. By 1:40 pm that day, he and his daughter arrived in the Sainsbury's upper level car park in the center of Salisbury. From there, they went on to the Bishop's Mill pub for a drink before heading to Zizzi restaurant at approximately 2:20 pm.

By 4:15, emergency services received a call that that police officers here to the churchyard where Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found on a bench.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a covert and deniable operation. So it's no surprise to me that this broad down we had no arrest.

Now, if you look at the arrest that this length for time off to the terrorist attacks in London, last year, we had 23 arrested after Manchester, 21 and 12 in London and Westminster. This just shows the complexity of the attack and also the fact that it was a very professional tradecraft hit by professional hit man.

BELL: But for the people of Salisbury, the cordons and the questions remain, even as the city has become the focus of an international crisis.

MAY: This has had an impact on so many businesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the people that live here.

BELL: But Theresa May's visit to Salisbury was brief. After speaking to --

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BELL: -- local businesses and to first responders, the prime minister returned to London and to the diplomatic storm -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Salisbury.

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ALLEN: Another shakeup is apparently coming to the White House. CNN has learned President Trump plans to replace national security advisor, H.R. McMaster. The exact timing is still in question but multiple sources say Mr. Trump wants someone else in the role by the time he meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The move has been rumored for some time, even as the White House denied reports that McMaster was on his way out. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted a couple of hours ago, "Just spoke to POTUS and General H.R McMaster. Contrary to reports, they have a good working relationship. And there are no changes at the NSC."

A source tells CNN that special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump administration -- excuse me -- Organization for business documents. "The New York Times" says some are related to Russia. That news comes as the Trump administration finally announced sanctions against Russia for its interference in the 2016 campaign.

For more now, here's CNN's Jim Sciutto at the White House.

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JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Trump administration acknowledging that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, interference that the president has repeatedly questioned and taking its toughest action yet, enacting sanctions on Moscow to finally meet a congressional mandate to impose the penalties.

Among the Russian targets on the list, all 13 people and three entities indicted by special counsel Mueller last month for interference in the election, including this man, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has deep ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Also sanctioned, the company that Prigozhin financially backs, the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm that produced divisive political posts on American social media platforms to incite discord during the campaign.

Trump initially resisted the sanctions, signing them into law only in the face of veto-proof majorities in both houses.

At the time, he lashed out at lawmakers on Twitter, quote, "Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time and very dangerous low. You can thank Congress."

The new sanctions also add more weight to Robert Mueller's investigation.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The entire thing has been a witch hunt.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Which the president has repeatedly dismissed.

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: The president's been dragged kicking and screaming to this moment. What happened today with Treasury validates the Mueller indictment, which the administration was running away from.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): The U.S. also publicly blamed Russia for a nerve agent attack that left a former Russian spy and his daughter critically ill in Britain, deeming the action a clear violation of international law.

TRUMP: It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it, something that should never, ever happen. And we're taking it very seriously, as, I think, are many others.

SCIUTTO: Despite today's moves against Russia, however, Democrats say the president must do more.

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: It's far past time that they did it. There is a series of provisions of the law that are pretty mandatory that the administration has not pursued against Russia on financial institutions on arms transfers and other things. So, there's a much more robust response that should be had.

SCIUTTO: The Treasury Department is seeing continued Russian cyber activity targeting U.S. elections but also they're seeing cyber activity targeting other critical infrastructure, including the power grid, nuclear power stations, that shows the extent of Russian attempts to potentially cause damage here in the U.S. via cyber attack.

And it's something that the Treasury Department, intelligence agencies are following very closely -- Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.

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ALLEN: Let's talk about these developments with political analyst, Peter Matthews, he teaches political science at Cypress College in Los Angeles.

Peter, thank you for being with us.

PETER MATTHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: Good to be here, Natalie.

ALLEN: Good to see you. Well, in a matter of weeks, the president has released his secretary of state, his chief economic adviser and now sources tell CNN it will be national security adviser HR McMaster next, a highly regarded general.

Why would he be parting ways with him?

MATTHEWS: I can only think of one reason and that is the difference in policy and also sometimes it's also personality, as this president says. I think it's more or less policy because McMaster actually differed with the president on a couple of items and he didn't like McMaster's approach to this national security issue of being -- including, for example, North Korea and a few other issues where McMaster seems to take a more moderate position on those issues than the president wanted him to take.

So I think it has to do with a difference there. In some cases, with Tillerson, it has to do with personality as well as policy. So the president -- the record -- there's no other president that's dismissed that many people in such a short time. This is quite amazing, actually.

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ALLEN: The question is, who can work with the president?

We should point out this is the president's second national security advisor. The president has maintained though that the revolving door, it's not chaos, it's new energy. Is he crystallizing, as you mentioned, that those that he can find who will be in lockstep with him? MATTHEWS: I really am afraid this could be the case, Natalie, that he wants a lockstep type of cabinet advisers who will just go right along with his commands basically. And this is dangerous for democracy and for freedom of expression and for good policy because you don't want to have a bunch of yes men and yes women around you if you're the president who has to make some very serious decisions.

You're not an expert in everything else so you should listen to experts who may differ among themselves. And the famous phrase that President Lincoln had a team of rivals around him on purpose so they can discuss and debate issues and the final word with the president. But you'd have all kinds of viewpoints to draw upon.

That's not -- seems to be President Trump's modus operandi. He just seems to want to have a lot of yes people around him and that's very, very dangerous, actually.

ALLEN: No, does not seem very close to Mr. Lincoln, does it.

MATTHEWS: Not at all. Furthest thing.

ALLEN: The president interestingly criticized Mr. McMaster just last month when the general said yes, Russia meddled in the U.S. election and Trump pointed out but we didn't collude.

Well, now the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Russia for doing just that after all of these months of saying, this is all a hoax, the fake news.

Why now is the -- there an admission by Mr. Trump that Russia did meddle in the election?

MATTHEWS: I think it has to do with the overwhelming evidence that Trump could not deny anymore and he was being pressured by even people in his own party. And much of Congress, obviously, is overwhelmingly in favor of the sanctions. They passed the sanctions and they want the president to enforce them.

So he finally buckled in, went for it. No telling how he'll do, what he'll do tomorrow. That's the thing about Mr. Trump, he is so inconsistent, especially is he has a bunch of yes people around him, once he cleans up his cabinet from those who are actually good advisers that could help him.

Once he gets rid of them, who knows what will be next?

Will it be Mr. Kelly next?

Some people are talking about that possibly. So we're in very uncharted waters here although we see President Trump behaving pretty much like he's done all these times and it's not a very encouraging sign actually.

ALLEN: Right, yes, and as you say, we don't know today if he'll sound a different tone tomorrow. And he certainly has sent those very direct statements about Vladimir Putin, not willing to criticize the man.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders was asked whether Vladimir Putin was a friend or foe and she wouldn't answer, saying only Putin has to decide if he's a good actor or a bad actor.

What kind of duck is that response?

MATTHEWS: You know, I'm wondering, Natalie, what is it that the Russians have?

What's his relationship there exactly that keeps him so leveraged against making objective decisions, it seems like?

Does he have lot of investments from Russians in his businesses?

Hasn't he sold very expensive condominiums to them and made profits, huge profits, like, for example, the $45 million condo he bought in Florida, he sold to an oligarch for $92 million, I believe, or so.

What about all of those business transactions before he became president and the investments from there?

Could that have any kind of implication?

That's what Mr. Mueller is going after next, I believe, very strongly. And we could hear something about that. But that's very dangerous. It's dealing with the issue of the difference between private enterprise on the part of a public official and the public good that he should be pursuing.

It's wrong to conflict the two. You have to make a priority the public good.

ALLEN: Yes, we also saw the special counsel issue a subpoena regarding Mr. Trump's financial dealings, if any, with Russia. So keeps inching more down that path.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ALLEN: And that also indicates that this isn't an investigation that's winding down, does it?

MATTHEWS: It certainly does indicate it's going to be several month at least. I predicted earlier, I said it could be several months to even more than a year that could continue with this investigation. And there's a good indication that it's going to be a long time before this thing is over.

ALLEN: What do you see if it continues right through the midterm elections?

What impact could that have?

MATTHEWS: It certainly can't help the Republicans in any way, because it looks like they're going to be so split among themselves and you're looking at the top Republican, the President of the United States, in the crosshairs of all of this controversy, which is not good for his party or a framework for his policies.

And it's going to continue and Mr. Mueller will be making headlines on these indictments, further indictments coming down and investigations. It's not a good thing at all for someone who's trying to make policy or lead the country.

But it seems like Mr. Trump seems to thrives on chaos, it seems to me. And I don't know what's going on exactly as far as what will this president do for America, for promoting the public good and getting the country back on track again and uniting us as a nation. That's so important that a president needs to do that. All presidents recognize that.

ALLEN: Right.

MATTHEWS: And we wonder what's going on at this time.

ALLEN: Yes, part of Russia's goal was to cause conflict and it seems to be working, doesn't it.

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ALLEN: Well, Peter Matthews, we always appreciate. Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Natalie.

ALLEN: North Korea and the U.S. may be a step closer to holding talks. North Korean state media says its country's foreign minister met with his Swedish counterpart on Thursday in Sweden and will resume talks in the coming hours.

Their meeting has fueled speculation they're discussing a possible summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Sweden has long represented U.S. interests in North Korea and could end up hosting the meeting. Also laying some groundwork, South Korea's foreign minister, she's in Washington for a three-day visit with leaders, including members of the U.S. House and Ivanka Trump.

Life for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is full of uncertainty but a new decision by the Myanmar government may move things along. We'll have that coming up next for you.

And some hospitals in Puerto Rico are no longer open around the clock. We'll tell you why.

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ALLEN: Welcome back, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Myanmar's foreign affairs secretary says the country will allow two U.N. agencies into Rakhine State. They're letting the U.N. Refugee Agency and the U.N. Development Program assist the resettlement program of Rohingya refugees.

It is the first time the U.N. will have access to Rakhine State since August. That's when the military began a violent crackdown against the Rohingya Muslim minority, sending more than 600,000 refugees fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.

Let's talk more about these developments with Richard Weir in New York. He's an Asia Division fellow at Human Rights Watch and a Burma researcher.

Richard, thanks for joining us.

RICHARD WEIR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Thanks for having me, Natalie.

ALLEN: So the U.N. stands ready to help. But with village bulldozed and new military installations being built over them, what will the aid group actually be able to see regarding crimes already committed and what life would be like for the Rohingya, once they return?

WEIR: Well, that's an important question. And I think one of the important things to recognize is that this is just a beginning of a conversation that the Myanmar government has said they're going to have with these two agencies.

And another thing to recognize is that these agencies aren't there to investigate the crimes against humanity, the atrocities that were committed by the Myanmar government. And the Myanmar government, while it has said it will cooperate or is interested in cooperating with these two agencies, it continues to say it will deny access to the fact-finding mission, the U.N. mandated fact-finding mission, which is charged with investigating these crimes.

In addition, it's decided that it's going to keep out the special rapporteur on the situation for human rights in Myanmar. And so this does not bode well for any accountability. What is positive and what Human Rights Watch and others have been calling --

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WEIR: -- for is in the process of these repatriations, if and when they happen, that UNHCR be part of the discussion and that they be able to monitor these repatriations to ensure they're not forced and that people's human rights are respected throughout the process.

ALLEN: That certainly needs to happen. We were just seeing video there from the air of how these villages have been wiped clean from where they were. The question, as you point out, how seriously can we take Myanmar's repatriation efforts, especially considering that Bangladesh sent them a list of 8,000 Rohingya refugees who said they would voluntary return and of them, the Myanmar government deemed less than 400 were eligible to return.

How could that be?

WEIR: Well, this raises real questions about how committed the Myanmar government is to actually allowing people to return back to their homes. In addition to the fact that Human Rights Watch has documented that 55 villages have been completely bulldozed. These are all Rohingya villages where people lived.

Where are they going to go?

They can't go home. Their houses have been erased from the Earth.

ALLEN: Yes, for now, the repatriation process is indefinitely stalled. That's not good news for the hundreds of thousands of refugees, packed in camps in Bangladesh. Aid groups like yours warn of a looming crisis as the first rains of the monsoon season are now just weeks away.

They're living in deplorable, unbelievable conditions. But it could get even worse.

WEIR: Absolutely. The conditions in the camps, even now that they've been there for almost six months, the vast majority have been there for over six months, there's still absolutely horrendous.

We're talking about really makeshift homes on precarious mud hills, where monsoon rains will cause collapse. They'll cause not only collapse of the physical structures but a collapse of the sanitation system, which could lay the groundwork for the spread of contagious diseases, leaving possibly many more dead in Bangladesh, in addition to those that were already killed in Rakhine State when they were fleeing violence.

ALLEN: And Richard, I want to ask you, what is Aung San Suu Kyi's role in this?

We've seen the international community condemn her for inaction and at least two international groups have revoked awards that she has received because of her silence on this matter.

WEIR: Well, it's important to note that Aung San Suu Kyi, of course, doesn't have any control over the military. And she certainly could be doing a lot more in terms of discussing and admitting that there are these gross human rights violations that have been committed, as she's done in the past.

She's condemned the military in the past and now she essentially refuses to do any of that. And the other thing that ought to be recognized is the role that the civilian government is playing in the so-called redevelopment of Rakhine State and how what they're doing now is prejudicing the rights of the Rohingya refugees, who have fled.

ALLEN: What do the refugees need right now and how can we help?

How can the world help?

WEIR: Well, it's certainly the case that crisis isn't over on both sides of the border. And what the world needs to be doing now is ensuring that the abuses that occurred in Myanmar aren't swept under the rug, that the people who are responsible for these atrocities are held to account, that the leaders that are responsible are sanctioned and that eventually they're brought before a court.

And we've called for these atrocities to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court. So the international community has a real responsibility of ensuring that they aren't allowed to get away with murder.

ALLEN: Absolutely. Thank goodness for international aid groups like yours, Human Rights Watch, so important because of certainly the news media can't get in there and report on anything about what is going on. That's not allowed.

So, Richard, we'll stay in touch with you. Hopefully we talk with you again and there will be some sort of breakthrough. But we will see. Richard Weir, for us, thank you so much.

WEIR: Thanks for having me.

ALLEN: We turn next to Syria. Thousands of people fled the besieged area of Eastern Ghouta Thursday as Syrian forces advanced into the rebel-held enclave on the edge of Damascus. That according to state TV and monitoring groups. The state news agency reports that more than 10,000 people escaped one small town, getting out for their lives. They went to government-controlled parts of the Syrian capital, Damascus. As you can see, people carried their belongings --

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ALLEN: -- out on foot. They pulled their elderly relatives in wheelchairs, they rode in the back of pickup trucks, anything they could do to escape. The civilian exodus came hours after reports of intensified airstrikes.

Hurricane Maria may have swept across Puerto Rico six months ago. But people are still dying because of the storm. CNN has identified at least five deaths just this year related to the hurricane.

For more now on the situation on the island, here's our Leyla Santiago.

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LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It shouldn't be so difficult for Miriam Rodriguez seeing this machine.

MIRIAM RODRIGUEZ, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: That takes me back. It makes me so angry.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): When this machine for sleep apnea stopped working, her husband, 77-year-old Natalio, stopped breathing in the middle of the night in Maunabo, the southeastern part of the island.

RODRIGUEZ: Suddenly he started to shake (INAUDIBLE) I saw him lying dead on the floor. And I couldn't do nothing to help him. That's why I say that. If we had electricity, normal electricity at that time, he could be alive still today. He could be alive. SANTIAGO (voice-over): She blames Hurricane Maria for wiping out the island's power. At least 120,000 customers still don't have power nearly six months later. The night her husband died, months after the storm, Miriam says their generator ran out of gas, leaving her home without power for the machine her husband needed to breathe.

Natalio's grave is one of many this year. CNN has identified at least five deaths from 2018, identified by families, doctors or funeral homes as related to Hurricane Maria. Among them, Gallio Salinas Santiago (ph). His family tells us he died of a heart attack in the parking lot of Maunabo's clinic, waling for the clinic to open. The mayor says after Maria, the town can't afford to run the once-24-hour service. Carmen Rodriguez Martinez, her family tells us she died because she didn't have power for the machine she depended on for oxygen.

Dr. Arturo Torres (ph) listed Hurricane Maria as a contributing factor on her death certificate.

SANTIAGO: Is Maria still killing people?

DR. ARTURO TORRES (PH): Yes. Yes. I'm sure that my case is not an isolated case since there's no electrical power in many places that would accelerate the end of the -- of the life of that person.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Cemetery workers tell us the number of deaths have doubled since the storm, pointing to dozens of graves they believe are related, graves that cemetery workers tell us will not be getting a headstone anytime soon because families can't afford them after Maria.

Natalio's family paid $4,000 for his funeral. Still owes $1,000. To qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency the death must be certified as hurricane related. But Puerto Rico's list of certified deaths hasn't changed since early December.

The official death toll stands at 64 even though the government's own death statistics in 2017 show an increase of at least 1,000 more deaths after Hurricane Maria compared to the previous two years. The Puerto Rican government has now ordered a review of deaths since Maria.

Dr. Torres says the elderly and those with complicated health conditions are too vulnerable to resist the challenges brought on by Maria.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

SANTIAGO: So just last week, just last week they had a death.

Do you think you'll have to write Maria again on a death certificate?

TORRES: I don't discard it. My opinion, yes.

SANTIAGO: That's hard to hear.

Is it hard to say?

TORRES: It's hard to say, yes.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Even harder to accept, that six months later...

RODRIGUEZ: It was a normal death but wasn't.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): -- Maria is still destroying lives -- Leyla Santiago, CNN, Puerto Rico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: They deserve so much better.

A horrifying scene in Miami, Florida. Recovery operations underway after a new pedestrian bridge collapses. We'll have a report from the scene just ahead.

Plus another story about a dog on a United Airlines flight. A Kansas- bound dog mistakenly flown to Japan is finally back home.

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ALLEN (voice-over): Welcome back. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live. I'm Natalie Allen with our top stories this hour.

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ALLEN: A team of investigators is in the U.S. state of Florida to determine what caused a deadly pedestrian bridge collapse in Miami on Thursday. Florida Senator Marco Rubio says the cables that suspended the bridge had loosened and were being tightened when it collapsed on a busy road near Florida International University, crushing at least eight cars.

The main section of the walkway was installed just a few days ago. CNN's Dianne Gallagher is there at the scene.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just hear this really loud cracking sound and I'm looking around, wondering where it was coming from. And then I look and I actually saw the bridge go down.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shortly after lunchtime, a pedestrian bridge, still under construction, collapsed at Florida International University in Miami. Deputy Mayor Maurice Kemp says that all resources are being used to save lives.

MAURICE KEMP, MIAMI DEPUTY MAYOR: Miami-Dade County and our partner agencies for the last six hours have been working feverishly in the search and rescue mode to ascertain how many victims there are and rescue as many as we can.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Florida Governor Rick Scott says that he is determined to find out exactly what caused the bridge to collapse.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLA.: We will hold anybody accountable for anything, if anybody's done anything wrong. But I know we're going to all want to do our best to try to find out exactly what happened here. And we will do that in a transparent manner.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Just days before, university president Mark Rosenberg said the bridge was built to provide safer passage for student and staff who are commuting between school and their homes in nearby Sweetwater.

MARK ROSENBERG, UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: This new bridge is critical for student safety. And we're thrilled that they can now have a much safer passage to get to FIU and to get back to their homes in Sweetwater.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): But today, with some construction still ongoing, witnesses watched in horror as the bridge fell onto cars below.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The cars were completely crushed under -- you could see some of the front car and just --

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- a lot of debris everywhere.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Stunned by what they had seen, witnesses worked to help victims until the first responders arrived.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One woman, luckily, made it alive and had just missed the back of her car. And she rolled forward and was able to get out.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): One witness says prior to the accident she was worried about being under the bridge but had faith in its construction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being under that bridge, we were like, oh, my God, this is so scary because it weighs so much. But we had trust that the people who had built it, like there was no fault or anything.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): President Rosenberg says the university will assist victims however they can and offered his condolences.

ROSENBERG: Now we're feeling immense sadness, uncontrollable sadness, and our hearts go out to all those affected, their friends and their families.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): The NTSB is investigating the cause of the collapse -- Dianne Gallagher, CNN, Miami, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ALLEN: We are learning more about United Airlines' PR nightmare involving two dogs. In the first incident, the U.S. Department of Transportation says it will investigate how this 10-month-old puppy wound up in an overhead bin during a three-hour flight, causing it to possibly suffocate.

United says a flight attendant mistakingly (sic) told a passenger to stow a bag containing the dog above her seat and claimed responsibility for the puppy's death. The airline says it will now issue bright colored tags to flag animal carriers so accidents like this never happen again.

U.S. lawmakers are also proposing new legislation that would ban airlines from placing animals in overhead bins.

Meantime, United's problem with another dog, this one, thankfully, is ending on a happy note. This 10-year-old German shepherd bound for Kansas was mistakenly flown to the other side of the world, all the way to Japan.

The airline apologized for the mixup and flew him on a private charter back to the United States, where he has just been reunited with his owner.

Poor little guy.

Coming up here, saving Antarctica's pristine environment, how that could be key to fighting climate change.

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ALLEN: The Antarctic is one of the most remote and majestic places on Earth. And if you've been one of the fortunate ones to go there, you know that. It offers unforgettable scenery and wildlife but it could also be key to battling climate change. CNN's Arwa Damon is traveling to the Antarctic with Greenpeace scientists as they try to save this delicate ecosystem.

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ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an ethereal world that we wake up to our first morning in the Antarctic. That sort of harsh yet captivating mystical beauty with penguins swimming and jumping in the waters right around our ship, the Arctic Sunrise.

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DAMON: It's so beautiful and quiet, you almost don't even want to speak above a whisper. And there is two whales right there. This is absolutely unbelievable.

See them?

DAMON (voice-over): And as if the morning couldn't get more striking, we are in the first week of a month-long leg of a Greenpeace expedition that started in January, a campaign to build the case for the creation of the world's largest ocean sanctuary in the Antarctic, which is a vital carbon sink.

And that's what we've come to learn more about, the Antarctic's potential to act as a buffer to climate change. We started off in Punta Arenas in Chile before hitting the Drake Passage, notorious for its huge swells and rough waters.

DAMON: It's day four and we're crossing through the Drake Passage. And we're lucky because by the Drake Passage's standards, these are actually really calm waters.

DAMON (voice-over): For many of the Greenpeace team on board and us, this is a first.

DAMON: Yes. I think those are seals.

DAMON (voice-over): Before we head to shore, all equipment and clothing needs to be carefully cleaned.

DAMON: It's quite interesting because, when you look at it from the outside in, it feels like it's this very harsh and robust environment. And yet it's incredibly sensitive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really sensitive, especially for the non- native species.

DAMON (voice-over): And we are off, heading toward Yankee Harbor.

DAMON: Oh, it's so weird to be on land again.

Look at the seals!

DAMON (voice-over): This tiny island, like the rest of the massive land mass in the Antarctic, is designated for scientific exploration and protected under the Antarctic treaty.

But that treaty does not extend to the Antarctic's waters, hence Greenpeace's mission. Even this region's most humorous of animals have their role in nature's equilibrium.

DAMON: What does that mean?

I don't know what that means.

DAMON (voice-over): Marine biologist and Greenpeace campaigner, Thilo Maack (ph), has been looking at the intricate links between these waters, its wildlife and the fundamental role they play in Earth's carbon cycle.

DAMON: If you look over there, they are trying to jump up on the ice. That is hilarious. Yes, they are really cute, that's true. Yes, it's -- the Antarctic is

a cooling chamber that mitigates the effects of climate change. And what happens here is having an effect on the climate of the planet.

The ocean currents are driven by the cold waters of the Antarctic.

DAMON (voice-over): And the wildlife is central to driving carbon- rich biomass to the depths of the dense, cold ocean waters, where it is then stored for millennia if it's left undisturbed.

There are still many unknowns and the more scientists uncover, the more questions arise. But there is no doubt about the harmony here, one whose preservation is potentially linked to our very existence -- Arwa Damon, CNN, the Antarctic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: And that is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. "WORLD SPORT" is up next and I'll be back at the top of the hour with another hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Hope to see you then.